By Dr. Stephanie Ray (www.PageantToPhD.com)
Do you know anything about politics? Either way, do you care about politics? Why or why not?
For some, politics may seem like a circus where every day there is a different politician or issue in the news, and there are more players and “clowns” all the time. For them, following current events and politics can feel like too much to keep up with, too often not that important, or that there can be a big hullabaloo decision but not much really changes in the grand scheme of things.
For others, each politician and each issue is important. Each current event could spell trouble or relief, and everything could change if a certain person gets elected or a certain law is passed. For them, following current events—or at least certain issues—can feel critically important. Indeed, certain events or laws can change the lives of some individuals, or groups of individuals, even if it doesn’t impact our own personal life directly.
Regardless of where you fall on that continuum, you might be wondering as a beauty pageant contestant: How does politics fit into pageants? Do I need to feel worried about this? Can I be myself?
Politics might not show up at all in your pageant interview questions. And if it does, it is unlikely that the pageant judges are looking for a particular stance or “right” answer in terms of political spectrum. But there are a number of “wrong” answers a person can give if one doesn’t take a moment to be mindful in her response.
Let’s be sure you put your best foot forward! Yes, you can be yourself—just the best version of you. And, no, you don’t need to feel worried if you are prepared.
While every pageant has its own rules, most would tell you that even if you are asked a political or controversial question, you will not be judged on your opinion. What you are judged on is, for instance, how well you answer the question, how clearly you can articulate yourself, and on your intelligence and diplomacy.
If you are going to be a Pageant Queen, members of the media or folks from the audience at appearances might ask you anything. The pageant judges want to know that you can handle yourself well on your feet without alienating people or reflecting poorly on the title.
So being “sensitive” to the fact that others may believe differently than you do is important to helping you develop a sensitive, diplomatic answer. If a judge in a personal pageant interview, or an emcee in an on-stage question, asks you about, say, immigration trends, healthcare reform, gay marriage, or any number of controversial things you must remember that they are “controversial” because not everyone agrees!
Learn to balance. Yes, you can be yourself and indicate that you are “for” or “against” something if you feel strongly about it. But avoid the trap of sounding overly certain, arrogant, entitled, or one-sided.
Look at the difference in these hypothetical responses to: Do you believe gay marriage should be allowed?
- Yes, what people do in their bedrooms is none of my business.
- No, the bible says it’s wrong. They’ll be punished and so will we if we facilitate it.
I’m over-simplifying here, but you can see how “black-and-white” those responses are. Among other things, the first does not acknowledge that there are implications outside the bedroom, and the second doesn’t allow for other interpretations of the bible or other faiths. While folks might respect your clarity, such responses stand a good chance of being seen as un-thoughtful, overly narrow, or off-putting.
Let’s try a different approach that sets out to be more balanced and sensitive. Again in response to “Do you believe gay marriage should be allowed?”
- That’s a complicated issue when you try to balance a variety of religious beliefs and traditions against personal freedoms and equality. While I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, I realize that others were raised to believe that love and family are good things no matter who is involved and how it is defined. And clearly a few of our 50 states have passed laws that allow gay marriage… I’m grateful that our citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, have committed folks in their communities and in congress that are doing the hard and sensitive work of sorting this out.
In this case, I offered a lot so you’d have different ways of thinking and talking about it. You could say any one of those sentences, or some version of this, and come off as more “sensitive” than with a black-and-white response. Remember, use examples like this as just guidelines to help you think and speak in a new way. You don’t want to be a parrot—just repeating—what anyone in your life, past or present, says without thinking it through yourself.
And you can be yourself with even tough questions. In this case, you can say how you were raised (whether it was, in essence, for or against gay marriage) but still acknowledge the other side in a respectful tone.
And, really, this example doesn’t even indicate how the speaker currently believes…just what she was raised to believe. Sometimes our beliefs change over time, but she adequately skirts the issue here without alienating any judges or the audience.
A judge or media member might catch that subtle side-step and press for more with “What do you believe now” and the contestant could then say what she believes or not, as she feels comfortable. The key is how you say it. Let’s play with some potential approaches:
- I still lean in the direction I was raised, but I am trying to keep an open mind.
- I personally believe ___, but I don’t suppose I know everything, so I will continue to learn more about the issue.
- I’m still considering my stand on that.
Or, along the lines of a part of the example above:
- Even with all we are learning about biology and psychology, about rights and religion, it is still tough to make an informed decision on this unless you spend a lot of time reading up on it. I’m grateful there are folks who are able to put more time in studying this issue than I’ve been able to thus far. They’re work will help educate the rest of us.
She could even add “So I believe I’ll wait awhile longer before I take a firm stand one way or the other.” Here she indicates she has a less-firm stand, and is willing to take a firm one, but she’s not going to let someone make her do so just now.
There’s so much more we could explore here about how to listen to questions, how to construct answer content, and how, in this case, to listen to the news, but we’ve covered enough for one short article. Practice constructing your own balanced responses as you listen to people talk, watch the news, or work with practice pageant interview questions. You’ll get better and better at it. 🙂
Also, please know there is so much more to assist you in shining your brightest in the Pageant Interviewing Success Made Easy materials—it’ll be one of the best investments you make in your success skills as the interviewing insights will apply not only to pageants but to future life interview situations as well.
Copyright 2012 Dr. Stephanie Raye (www.PageantToPhD.com) You are welcome to use this article, in whole or in logical part and appropriate context, in your newsletters, emails, or websites as long as you properly quote any segments and, in all cases of use, whole or part, acknowledge Dr. Stephanie Raye as author and provide the link to www.PageantToPhD.com . (And if you agree to stop doing so upon request if Dr. Raye sees usage she deems as unprofessional or inappropriate.) Wishing you success! Please stay in touch with your stories and events.